The Atlantic

Samin Nosrat Wants Everybody to Cook

The Bay Area chef believes that great food can be both beautiful and accessible. Her new Netflix series, based on her celebrated cookbook Salt, Fat, Acid, Heat, might just help her deliver that message.
Source: Heather Sten

The first day we met, Samin Nosrat improved my cooking for maybe the 100th time. I’d been employing Nosrat’s approach to cooking in my own kitchen for more than a year, each small tweak and lesson learned its own miracle. But last month, Nosrat intervened directly (and perhaps unknowingly).

At the market she chose as our meeting place, downtown Brooklyn’s Atlantic Fruit & Vegetable, the Berkeley-based chef and educator giddily pointed out a number of produce gems. One of them—fresh bay leaves—ended up finding its way into the soup I made that evening. A spicy medley of andouille sausage, Yukon Gold potatoes, black-eyed peas, and Tuscan kale, my soup would’ve been tasty without the addition. But the bay leaves, quietly fragrant and almost minty in their essence, balanced out the richness of the broth. Suddenly, it sang.

The author of the celebrated cookbook Salt, Fat, Acid, Heat: Mastering the Elements of Good Cooking has spent her nearly 20-year career perfecting the art of balance. For much of that time, the 38-year-old Nosrat has paired her love of cooking with an affinity for the written word. A little while after our marketplace excursion, over lunch at Yemen Café, a sparse but inviting neighborhood mainstay, Nosrat explained why she combines the two modes of expression. As we ate lentil soup, hummus with minced lamb, and fattah—a sublime dish combining bread, butter, honey, and cream—she spoke about the sensibility that has come to define her work.

“At some point, I realized food was a tool for bringing people together, for telling stories about people, for telling stories about culture,” she said. “And that’s what I really care about. So it’s only natural that they would go together.”

Throughout our lunch, Nosrat’s laughter, or in her James Beard Award–winning book. It’s also the spirit that Nosrat carried into her new Netflix show, a docuseries based on her book. The show is part how-to guide for home cooks of all skill levels and part aspirational travelogue.

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